Why you need to improve your eCommerce strategy, New Zealand

New Zealand e-commerce strategyWhen I moved back to New Zealand about a month ago I expected the eCommerce industry in New Zealand to have made major improvements. Well at least that the gap between them and Europe & North America would be smaller. Unfortunately that’s not the case at all.

The case studies (examples) below will show you the state eCommerce in New Zealand is in. And why I love to improve the eCommerce strategy and online presence of so many New Zealand companies.

Interesting New Zealand eCommerce statistics

First let’s have a look at some New Zealand eCommerce statistics. Statistics that will exactly show you why New Zealand needs to step up its game in the world of eCommerce.

  • Almost 2 million adult Kiwis made an online purchase in the past year.
  • 66% of online shoppers in New Zealand has made a purchase at an overseas website in the last three months.
  • 60% of these Kiwi overseas shoppers couldn’t find the item on a New Zealand retail site.
  • Estimated spent at overseas online shops is NZ$1.6 billion (in 2015).
  • Total online spent (is expected to have) reached NZ$4.8 billion by the end of 2015
  • International online retailers grow faster than New Zealand online retailers (+25 percentage point faster growth in January 2012 vs +10 percentage point in January 2016).

(sources: ‘The Big Business of eCommerce’ by Nielsen (7 July 2015), BNZ and Market View)

Nielsen research also shows that growth of new online shopper in New Zealand has slowed while those who are already shopping online are hooked and are increasing their frequency.

Challenges New Zealand brands face in the online world

When a brand does not innovate and stays doing business the same way he has always done, the brand will face extinction. It’s happening all over the world. Traditional retail chains that have ignored online shopping or are struggling with it are having a tough time or are even going out of business.

Some examples of these brick & mortar dinosaurs:

Traditional businesses (brick and mortar shops) need to start looking at the online world to spot opportunities and how to integrate these in their current business model. Sometimes this will mean changing the whole business model, but there are cases where it’s easier to integrate.

Or as Roy Morgan Research said in its June 2015 report:

“It’s important that traditional retailers stop viewing online as a threat, and instead as an opportunity to reach and appeal to customers in a different way.”

What’s wrong with their eCommerce strategy?

Fortunately there are many New Zealand businesses that are working on an eCommerce strategy. Well, they are trying to embrace eCommerce and starting to create an online shopping experience. But they really need to speed up the process in order to catch up with the rest of the world. Or at least don’t let the gap widen. They definitelly should try to stop losing Kiwi customers to overseas online retailers.

Let’s have a look at four New Zealand companies and their attempt at having an eCommerce strategy and presence in the e-retail world. I won’t name and shame these companies, it’s just to set an example of the state the New Zealand eCommerce industry is in. And yes, all these examples come from my own experience.

Case 1: Accommodation provider prefers to sell one item at a time

Travellers on a road trip or backpacking adventure know how important it is when they can book accommodation for the whole trip in advance. There is a certain accommodation provider in New Zealand that has set up the booking process as follows:

  1. Select accommodation, arrival date, and number of nights.
  2. Select room type.
  3. Enter guest(s)’ details and membership number (needed for membership discount, although they don’t check the number).
  4. Order summary
  5. Payment details. Guest has to fill in email address (twice) and phone number.
  6. Actual payment by filling in credit card details.

And then you’re done… Sounds easy enough. But booking several locations in one go is impossible, meaning you’ll have to go through the whole process again… And again. You can’t create an online profile and the system doesn’t set a cookie to remember basic details. For each night in a different location you’ll have to go through these 6 steps again.

Of course I checked this issue with the accommodation provider… Their Twitter webcare team was friendly but could only say the website is continuously being improved. But I could always use their personal sales hotline by phone or email to have a booking like this taken care of.

And the Marketing & Sales Manager of this organisation couldn’t care less. He didn’t respond to my message of offering feedback (for free) about the sales process and suggestions on how to improve it.

Case 2: Major New Zealand retailer creates conversion killer on mobile website

This New Zealand retailer has its roots in offline retail, but has moved to the world of online retail. Well they have a webshop and are promoting online buying and offline picking up in all their stores.

However the following happened when I tried to order on the mobile version of their online shop. One item was added to my shopping cart. Next step, to the check-out page. An error message appeared: “there are no items in your shopping cart”. Okay maybe I did something wrong. Can happen.

So I added another item to the shopping cart. The counter said: “2 items in shopping cart”. Perfect, check-out here we come. Then again the error message: “there are no items in your shopping cart”. Grrr. Now it’s definitely not me. So I did some more tests and no matter what I added to the shopping cart or in how many quantities, my shopping cart appeared to be empty when I tried to checkout. That’s one giant conversion killer on mobile (a device that nowadays provides at least 50% of traffic for eCcommerce websites).

Again I contacted the company, but I haven’t heard back yet. And the conversion killer on mobile is already active for at least 4 weeks.

Update 31 March 2016: This time when I checked the bug was gone. The connversion killer has finally been removed. It makes you wonder how many sales they have missed by having a conversion killer like this active for at least 8 weeks.

Case 3: Car hire company sends out test templates by email

Tourism is a major business in New Zealand. Especially during summer car hire companies experience busy times with all the overseas visitors entering the country. This particular car hire company has an eCommerce website that works well. It does its job in a friendly and easy way. But it’s their inspirational content that is annoying customers.

In this case their blog sends out newsletters once or twice a week to let subscribers know there’s new content. But the newsletters are sent from a test account and the introduction is always the same Lorem Ipsum text. When you scroll down you’ll see the new content but at first glance it’s always the same spammy looking test version.

This particular company thanked me for informing them and they would look into it. Although they had no idea where to look or how to fix it. At least an honest answer.

Case 4: Online shop creates confusion experience for customer

This particular shop has gone through lengths to create a shopping experience that is as confusing as possible. First of all, an error occurred in the payment process. Screen pops back to check-out overview with my address details and payment details. The message “an error has occurred” is displayed in red at the top of the page. No further explanation, nothing.

Scrolling down I notice that some of my address details (billing address) are still there but my delivery address and payment details are gone. These fields are completely empty. And no explanation what went wrong with the payment.

Maybe it’s me and have I made a typo in my credit card details, so I try again. Same thing happens, same vague message, same details that disappear. As soon as I try another credit card (after having filled out the missing details again) the payment goes through and the confirmation screen is displayed. My order details are correct but the delivery address is now a mix of my billing and my delivery address. Now I’m left guessing if and where my order will be delivered.

Did I get a response from the company? They didn’t respond to my tweets (send on Saturday) straight away, but they did on Monday morning. It turned out that the delivery address wasn’t even on their system, so I had to DM that to them. In the end they changed my info and shipped the order, but the whole experience on their eCommerce website could have been so much better.

Let me dive into your eCommerce strategy to create success in the online world

Now you know why I’m anxious to use my European eCommerce & online marketing skills here in New Zealand. It would be such a shame if New Zealand businesses lose customers and turnover to foreign online retailers. Or that the New Zealand industry will be ruled by major overseas online players. Let’s keep the New Zealand dollars in New Zealand. Let’s create a world-class eCommerce strategy together.